Monday, December 5, 2011


San Diego, CA
     I popped down to San Diego over the Thanksgiving holiday and couldn’t wait to hit up a new burger joint that my dad had told me about: Slater’s 50/50. Located in the fast-developing Liberty Station, Slater’s has a nice outdoor patio, a healthy obsession with bacon and fantastic service.
     I went with the Canuck and my Dad, and since it was unseasonably warm, we sat on the patio. They ordered water, but I was in the mood for a beer and the manager suggested the Hofbrau Hefe Weizen, which turned out to be a nice contrast to the burger I ordered. We started with the Onion Strings that come with BBQ sauce, but as always I requested Ranch. They were solid, not out of this world, but solid and we ate every last one. 

     Then it came time to order our burgs. Slater’s is famous for their 50/50 patty, which is half ground beef and half ground bacon!  Obviously I was having that patty no matter what, even though they offer a variety of meats (and non-meats) to choose from. Both the Canuck and my dad ordered the 50/50 burger, which is the first burger in their ‘Burgers Designed’ category. It comes with an egg sunny side up, avocado, pepper jack cheese and a chipotle mayo:

My dad swapped out the chipotle for baconnaise on the side, the pepper jack for cheddar and added bacon, so he kind of designed his own in a round about way:

I chose to build a burger: 50/50 patty, (which must be cooked medium well to get the bacon right) baconnaise, brie, tomato, grilled onions and thick cut bacon. Like other places that have a build-your-own menu, they provide half-sheets for you to create your burg, only Slater’s takes it a step further and gives you a space to name it. I named mine The Heart Attack:

     The burgs come out stacked tall, with a knife stabbed through the center, and trust me you need the knife. {And Side Bar: If you name your burger, they say it when they bring it to you: "And who had the Heart Attack?" I raised my hand, "I did!" Now that I know that, I will have to abuse this privilege.}
     The Heart Attack was delicious! I built a winner. The brie and bacon were awesome, the patty was perfectly cooked and I could definitely taste the ground bacon. After a few bites, the onions were too slippery and the yummy baconnaise was oozing out, getting burg juice all over both my hands and my face. I looked like the fat kid that’s in every camp movie ever made stuffing his face with sloppy-joes. The point is, I ended up using a fork and knife. 

The egg escaped the Canuck’s burger; it slid out the back while he was taking a bite. Eggs and grilled onions are awesome on burgers, but sooo slippery. The Canuck also said the chipotle sauce overwhelmed the mild avocado, so maybe ask for it on the side if you go that route during your visit. Next time I want to design my own mac n cheese (yes, they let you do that!) and do a combination plate for the appetizer so I can try the fried artichoke hearts.  
Oh, and by the way, my dad managed to keep his burger together the whole time and never resorted to silverware; he says the trick is to never put it down.  

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


West Los Angeles, CA

My best Canadian and I kept hearing about this new place called Nook.  We heard it was on the corner of Bundy and Santa Monica, so we set out on foot, but when we reached the intersection and saw nothing called Nook, we hit up the iphone for better directions and found we had several blocks to go. The IHOP was tempting due to laziness, however we continued on, and it was definitely worth the walk. Its buried in the corner of a mini mall, with nothing but a bright orange door indicating there's something back there. The inside had a crowded but pleasant ambiance, with a few small tables and a couple big, tall bar tables that were family style seating. We climbed into our high chairs and tried to wriggle them up to the table. The menu was small but everything seemed tantalizing.  

We both chose the Nook Burger, made with gruyere cheese, red wine-onion jam and baby arugula on grilled rustic bread. We opted for fries of course and then the waiter offered us something that I didn't quite hear, but I never say no to free food, so I responded 'yes, please!' He then placed a little dish of boiled peanuts in front of us. I had never heard of such a thing but according to the Canuck its very common in the south. I was absolutely fascinated by them and wanted to make my own version immediately by boiling them with garlic or some such thing.  

The burger had rich flavors that complimented the perfectly cooked meat well.  The lower bun definitely got a little soggy, but overall, tasty. During all this recon I've seen a  redefining of "the restaurant burger:" it always has caramelized onions and arugula, and the cheese is usually gruyere or stilton. Every up and coming restaurant puts this "gourmet" burger on their menu, regardless of cuisine. The Nook is a relatively new restaurant, and while the quality of ingredients upped the flavor, it seemed like it was on the menu simply because of this unspoken rule that you must offer a gourmet burg. 

The fries I enjoyed, though they were similar to the Library fries the Canuck is not so into, and they came with a lemon aioli that was quite original. Once the Canuck realized there was a wasabi aioli, that drowned out the disappointment he felt over the crispy fries.  I haven't been back to Nook yet, but I have a feeling the other items on the menu are going to be much more interesting- I want the shrimp and grits. The Canuck suggests making reservations if you want a private table, all conversations are open to eavesdropping at the family style seating!

Friday, September 2, 2011


Santa Monica, CA

The Canuck and I were down on Main Street, and being creatures of habit, when faced with where to eat, we settled on Library Alehouse.  We continued being creatures of habit by ordering our usual beers, a Bitburger for the Canuck and a Lost Coast apricot for me.  I was in a healthy mood, so I ordered the Ahi burger with wasabi coleslaw, daikon sprouts and a side salad, but the Canuck chose the Blue & Bacon (again) which as you might guess has bacon, and stilton bleu cheese with fries of course.

Burgers came out looking good as always, and we took our first bites. The ahi burger tasted very plain, so I stole the mustard off the Canuck's plate and then suddenly the ahi burger was delicious.  I don't know why something that supposedly had wasabi in it was so bland, but the mustard made the burg. Side salad tasted way too healthy and boring, it was more like a little pile of rabbit food than a salad.

This time the Blue & Bacon burg was cooked properly - medium - and the flavor combination is delicious as you'd expect for Kobe beef. The sweetness of the onions balanced the salty-ness of the bacon and cheese.  

The Canuck complained about the fries, but I like them bite size and crisp, tossed with parsley.  I concede that they were well done, but what's not to love?  Overall, the food at Library Alehouse is consistently good, but the service not so much.  I don't know if its because we are usually on the back patio, or if its the same up at the bar, but the bus-ers have better game than the servers. Let's be real though, it won't stop me from returning... 

Thursday, September 1, 2011


Hollywood, CA

I made the trek out to Hollywood to catch up with my buddy Leo and we landed at Stout.  I had been to Stout before, but there were several burgs on the menu I still needed to try.  Leo opted for the Shu burger which has pepper jack cheese, bell spread and chipotle sauce.  I went for an equally rich - though less potent burger - the Six Weeker, which consists of brie, fig jam, arugula and caramelized onions.  We caught up on our writing and sipped a Lost Coast apricot wheat beer.  Side orders are large, so we split an order of fries.  

Leo drowned his fries in ketchup while I politely requested mayo, which Leo hates, so I made a point of dipping my fries in the mayo first then the ketchup, just to disgust him.  The fries are more than satisfactory, but nothing to write home about.

Then the burgs came out and conversation took a back seat to nom-ing.  My burger was perfectly cooked, had excellent flavor and the arugula was pleasantly placed under the meat to help prevent sog, although the meat was so juicy this might have been an impossible task.  I do feel like the brie was overshadowed by the caramelized onions, and might alter the ratio of cheese to onion to draw out the subtler flavors.  Leo enjoyed his spicy burg, but I am weak and can't handle that kind of heat. 

The place was busy for a week day lunch, which I suppose adds to the joint's legitimacy.  The staff was friendly and plentiful, and I found it reasonably priced, for the quality of food and location.  If I lived over there, I would really take advantage of the fact that Stout stays open until 4am!  

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Cambridge, MA

Sadly, Cojo went back to California before I did, but Murph and I carried on and went to Mr. Bartley's.  Bartley's has been a part of Cambridge for around 50 years.  The restaurant has family style seating and the walls look like a frat house. It's chaos, and all in good fun. If you know me, you know I don't like strangers, but Murph loves to talk to strangers and she struck up a conversation with the father and son duo seated uncomfortably close to us. (She's so brave!) All their burgers are named after pop culture phenomenons and politicians. I chose the Joe Biden burger, and Murph went with the Bill Clinton. Joe Biden comes with American cheese, bacon and BBQ sauce; Bill comes with BBQ sauce and cheddar cheese. (There's a sex joke in there somewhere...)

Murph got sweet potato fries and I got onion rings so we could mix and match. They didn't provide anything but ketchup, and we all know a proper dipping sauce is key or I'm not interested, so our waitress brought out a blue cheese dressing which was the perfect companion for the fried treasures. She did warn me this dipping sauce would cost extra- Bartley's is a little pricier than Flat Patties, but I think you're paying for the name and heritage as well. The sides come piled next to the burgers, the burgs are probably 3-5 inches high, and they stack the sides as high, if not higher. It is 100% too much food.

It was delicious: rich, salty, filling.  We were starving, my blood sugar was super low and we probably waited 30-40 minutes for the burgs to come out, but we scarfed them down in half that time.  We were so gung-ho at first and then your brain tells you you're full, but you keep eating because its tasty, and then your brain threatens you, "If you eat one more bite I will make you puke." And your tongue is like, "Fuck you, Brain." It's a bitter battle. Your stomach is the real victim, it doesn't have a voice.  

If you go to Boston, or if you're an Asian over-achieving tourist checking out Harvard, don't miss Mr. Bartley's.  You would be doing your tongue a disservice to skip the politically charged fare.


Cambridge, MA

One of my best friends, Murph, just got her masters at Tufts University, so Cojo and I popped out to Boston for a week of exploration.  We took the red-eye and powered through our first day. It was hot and muggy and we walked around Cambridge and Harvard getting a feel for things. In need of a big meal after dour airplane food, Murph took us to Flat Patties, according to them they are the: "2010 WINNER BEST OF BOSTON & MOST AFFORDABLE!" 

I opted for a single cheeseburger and added bacon and avocado. And obviously I got fries, and mixed my own dipping sauce with the ketchup and mayo.  I don't know who's relish that is in the picture.  I'll attribute it to Murph.  She always eats my pickles.  ANYWAY, the burg was solid. Fresh ingredients, and natural tasty fries.  After such food deprivation, it really hit the spot. Not the most inventive burger, or best flavors, but a good showing none the less. The joint was certainly popular, people were hovering, waiting to snatch our table the minute we got up. I'll agree with their affordable title- I only paid $8.88, but I wouldn't put it in the best of Boston category...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Santa Monica, CA

The Canuck and I continued our burger feast at Library Alehouse on Main. I wanted the tuna tartare as an entree, so I chose to have a slider appetizer with Niman Ranch beef, lettuce, tomato, onion, Tillamook cheddar and their Alehouse thousand island. The onion was diced, which I thought was odd, and I got the slice of tomato that has the little circle where the stem grows which I didn't approve of, however these are aesthetic issues, not taste issues. The slider was satisfying and I would order it again, especially with the amazing Apricot Wheat beer I was drinking from Lost Coast. I do appreciate when a restaurant shreds its lettuce, and the thousand island was a good addition.

The Canuck went all out and had the Blue N Bacon burger with Kobe, double bacon, stilton blue and caramelized onions. Fries too of course and they were natural cut with solid flavor, a perfect compliment to our beers.

The bacon was excellent, and the stilton and caramelized onions were a great flavor combination. That's a side of dijon, which almost had to fight the stilton for flavor power. Sadly, the Canuck ordered this burg medium and it came out well done. Now, I don't know how that chef was raised, but in my world, overcooking kobe beef is a big no-no. Regardless, the flavor was satisfying- better than the Umami Port and Stilton burger? No, but maybe it was just an off day for that chef. There are many other burgers on the menu and you can build your own, so I will come back and give the place another try.


Santa Monica, CA

Last Friday the Canuck and I returned to Hillstone for an impromptu fancy feast. We started with the spicy tuna roll from their mini-sushi menu and it was fantastic. Then the Canuck ordered a martini, so of course I had to have one too.  (I hate being left out.)  After our sushi, our martinis were probably half-consumed and are lovely waitress brought out fresh chilled glasses to pour our martinis into to keep them chilled. It was glorious.

The Canuck opted for the Hawaiian Ribeye, and I honeybadgered him into getting the baked potato so we could trade tastes of sides.  I chose the California Burger, for two reasons: 1) it sounded great and 2) the regular Hillstone burger seemed similar to the R+D burger. Both restaurants are owned by the Hillstone group, so I wanted to make sure I was trying something new. I opted for fries. Obviously.

The burg is fresh ground, with jack cheese, avocado, arugula and red onions. It was very classically flavored to me.  A nice balance of creamy avocado and cheese with the salt of the meat and tang of the onion. I asked for mayo with my fries, and they were golden and crispy. The Hawaiian ribeye had great flavor and was properly cooked.  The Canuck was in steak heaven. The baked potato was also good, though I felt the flavors could have had a little more punch.  It came out with all the fixin's but they didn't blend the way I anticipated.  I recommend the restaurant both on its own, and for the burger.  There's just something about high quality ingredients that can make classic seem gourmet.

Mini-Recon: CAFE BLEU

San Diego, CA

For mother's day brunch we went to Cafe Bleu in Mission Hills.  I ordered a croque madam which is basically ham and cheese with a sunny side up egg, and it was delicious and very unhealthy.  My father and step mom chose the Bleu Burger.  

This juicy burg is made with kobe beef, Point Reyes Bleu Cheese, pickled onions and fresh tomatos.  The cheese made the burger.  Bleu cheese is obviously a strong cheese so anytime you put it on something it will stand out, and the pickled onions tempered it slightly, but it was still strong and fantastic.  They even brought out their bleu cheese dressing for our fries. Yum!

Mini- Recon: THE PEARL

San Diego, CA

For my Dad's birthday my step mom and I planned a surprise dinner at The Pearl, a recently restored 1960's motel in Point Loma.  The atmosphere is fantastic and we dined right by the pool while Goldfinger was projected on a large screen above the pool.  We tried some lavender cocktails, which were a little sweet for my taste, then settled into some red wine.  Most of us ordered the braised short ribs, but my brother was true to his upbringing and opted for the burger.  

With Meyer Ranch Chuck, Smoked Gouda and carmelized onions, (which he picked off and I happily ate with my short ribs) the burger was solid.  Classic with a few gourmet tweaks, the butter toasted bun brought it home. Not the best burger ever, but a safe choice.  Fries were delicious!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Recon: UMAMI Fred Segal

Santa Monica, CA

My dad popped into town last week, the day Obama arrived, so not the best planning our parts, but Santa Monica was magically unaffected.  We went to Umami at Fred Segal.  It was time for the Truffle Burger.  As you know I have been to Umami several times and always ordered a different burger, but the Truffle Burg has been on the list for a while.  We opted to start with the Tempura Onion Rings and the Roasted Garlic Aioli.  They were solid, but nothing outta the park.  Umami ketchup has actually grown on me, it has a more savory taste than Heinz, which is too sweet for my taste.

The truffle burg is served with a truffle cheese and a truffle glaze.  All Umami burgs are cooked medium-rare unless you request otherwise.  Its very simple, and very rich.  It tastes delicious, but by the end I was a little overwhelmed, because it's so rich. You really have to be prepared for it, but if you like truffles, you're golden.

My dad opted for the Manly Burger, which consists of beer-cheddar cheese, smoked-salt onion strings and bacon lardons. There are definitely unique flavors in this burger, something I couldn't quite put my finger on.  My dad was convinced that the taste of 'umami' would be similar to miso, but in the end he he decided, "It's a unique flavor that you just can't quite define." I am in agreement!

I went back just a week later with the Canuck and ordered the Port and Stilton burger, which has the onions caramelized in port and Stilton cheese, I think it's my favorite.  The Canuck chose the SoCal Burger with butter lettuce, slow-roasted tomato, house spread, house-made american cheese, and caramelized onions.  We also got the skinny fries. Of the fries, I think the truffle fries, that they only serve on 'special' are my favorite.  Next time I'll see if they can make the Greenbird burg, but with meat... not turkey... 

Friday, March 25, 2011

Recon: BAR * FOOD

West Los Angeles, CA

Happy Hour is very important to my people. And recently our wallets have been hurting from staying and drinking past happy hour's end- until there was Bar * Food. It's good sized, with a square horse shoe bar in the front, and tables down the sides. It's exactly what the name declares, and just last week I accidentally ended up here three out of the five work days. Let's not get into that now. They have a wide selection of beers, but only three are on happy hour special, along with a red and white wine. With each drink during happy hour, you can have a free hot dog, and there's a solid menu of other happy hour food items that include a delicious burger and some great, spicy tuna on crispy rice.  Eclectic, I know. Past happy hour, the drinks specials stay but the food specials end. 

My friend Dre ordered the $6 burger. Just like the Carl's Jr. commercials, I know. And I totally ate half of it. The bun is toasted in buttery goodness and the burger is served with perfectly melted cheddar cheese, bacon jam and arugula. Its tasty. Great flavor, the right texture and an awesome price. They also have peppered fries with a Guinness ketchup and sweet potato fries with a spicy mayo- the same spicy mayo on the spicy tuna and crispy rice if I'm not mistaken. The next time you need a burger, a happy hour, or both, pop into Bar * Food.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Brentwood, CA

I met my friend Cojo at the Tavern in Brentwood for a catch-up lunch. Tavern has great atmosphere and decor, as well as a full bar and bakery. It's a great place to hang around chatting and while its a favorite work lunch spot in the neighborhood, it's Sunday brunch gets pretty busy. Before my burger I had a Queen Mary, which is similar to a Bloody Mary only made with crushed cucumbers. I highly recommend it. I ordered their Niman Ranch burger with herbed fries. It's served with fontina cheese, red onion, lettuce, tomato and pickles.

The fries are delicious.  I recommend ordering them in conjunction with any of their entrees.  The dish is served with ketchup, but I asked for mayo and they were happy to oblige. Crisp on the outside, great flavor, just properly done.  The burger itself is solid, but not surprising or unique, which I think is what the restaurant is going for anyway. It's a classic flavor made with high quality ingredients.  This burger will always be a satisfying choice.

Monday, March 21, 2011


Kearny Mesa, CA

When I was in San Diego a couple weeks ago we decided to do some recon at a place backed by a lot of internet chatter: The B Spot. Nestled into a mostly Asian strip mall, (I say Asian because Kearny Mesa is home to Chinese, Japanese and Korean markets, restaurants and stores and despite my formidable UCLA education, I cannot read any of those languages) it offers teriyaki bowls, sandwiches and burgers. The style is eclectic to say the least: laminated pictures of menu items stick to the walls, tables are pop/mod looking and a large tv next to the counter plays the Food network. You order at the counter, where drinks rest in humming mini fridges behind the register, and then sit down at a colorful, squiggly table. 

We ordered the combo fries which consisted of regular fries, sweet potato fries and yam fries. Apparently sweet potatoes and yams are not the same thing... contrary to my prior life knowledge. The fries came out first, smelling delicious with a light seasoning on them and, shockingly, I preferred the yam/sweet potato fries (I can't tell them apart) to the regular fries. They had better flavor and texture. However, I wish they had been served with their own dip, maybe a garlic aioli or thousand island. I ordered the Chopped Bacon Burger (duh) with cheddar cheese and cajun sauce, while my Dad had the Avocado, Bacon and Swiss Burger with a peppercorn mayo, and my little brother bucked the system and had a teriyaki bowl.  

The burgers came out all tall and leaning-tower-of-Pisa-esque. I squished mine down and took a big bite- these were going to be messy. The Cajun sauce was strong and overpowering, definitely had some heat to it. I did ask about the Cajun sauce before I ordered, and it was described as a "spicy thousand island" which I felt wasn't quite accurate. The bacon was really bacon bits, which would have been better cooked in the patty, or on a bacon salad, one of my other favorite lunch items. The real concept that drew me to this place was that the cheese is hidden inside the meat. And while this kept the cheese melting and oozy, it also meant it was distributed unevenly. It was hard to get a bite of burger with every topping in it. My dad loved the peppercorn mayo on his, and I actually liked his burger better, the avocado gave it a cleaner flavor, and without the Cajun sauce you could actually taste the other ingredients. 

It was only $25 for 3 people, so definitely reasonable, but it fell short of expectations.  Conceptually they're close, but execution didn't cut it.  All the internet chatterers who backed this burger need to expand their horizons, and I have a few ideas for my next San Diego endeavor...

Monday, March 14, 2011


Culver City, CA

Last week I popped over to downtown Culver City to celebrate a friend's birthday at Rush Street. I hadn't anticipated on reviewing the place, but after I had the Truffle Asiago French Fries, there was no way I couldn't say something. I started off simple with a Blue Moon, then took a look at the menu. Immediately, the sliders caught my eye. Then there was a very serious debate about the ground turkey sliders, which come with BBQ sauce, and the ground beef sliders, which come with Thousand Island. A few guests had already had the turkey sliders and loved them, but I personally don't think ground turkey is a fatty enough meat to have good flavor, and given the choice between BBQ and Thousand Island, I'm usually going to pick Thousand Island. Obviously I went with beef, and I have to say, without the Thousand Island, the burg's didn't have a lot of flavor, and they definitely skimped on the cheese. 

Still hungry after that weak show, I turned back to the menu and zeroed in on the Truffle Asiago Fries. BAM, done.  Serving size is excellently large, and in addition to the asiago and truffle oil, they had finely chopped parsley, which was a fantastic addition. Four of us girls gobbled that order up quick, just as a few more friends were arriving, and when they ordered the fries too, we couldn't help but eat a few more. I'm embarrassed (proud?) to say I could easily have eaten an entire dish of them all by myself.  

There were several other things on the menu that looked good, but I got distracted with some wines after that and didn't order anything else. As an aside, I've really only been to Culver City to do something on the Sony Lot and then driven right back, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that their downtown is charming and bustling in the most attractive manner. If you haven't been, go walk around and have a nice meal there- its riddled with restaurants. Follow your nose to the truffle fries.

Monday, February 28, 2011


Los Angeles, CA

The Canuck and I were starving come lunchtime Saturday, and I suggested a westside place, I'd been looking to try for a while- Hole in the Wall Burger Joint. It's tucked away off Santa Monica Blvd in a strip mall (sort of) behind the Winchell's Donuts. It looks like a junkyard dive from a cult classic movie. The front is painted to look like rusty metal sheeting and there's a neon sign that says 'BURGERS' over the door. Inside, it felt like a tiny taco shop, or a small midwestern mom & pop diner. Much like The Counter, you fill out you own menu, picking meat, bun, toppings, extras and sides. The menu looked good and the buns on the counter by the register looked tasty. I ordered a beef patty, with an original bun, onion mayo, tomato cheddar and bacon. The Canuck went for the beef patty and original bun as well, but switched it up with chipotle mayo, pepperjack cheese, bacon, lettuce and tomato. We both ordered the kennebec fries (we could have easily shared one order.)

At first, we were excited. Food came out in brown paper bags, the burgs were huge, wrapped in white wax paper and the fries were in their own little sleeves. We took our first bites and kept going up to maybe five bites and then we looked at each other.  "I'm not so into this." We were so hungry initially that we weren't really assessing, but as our hunger pains abated, our more discerning pallets took charge. The burg's were hearty and homestyle, but the plain ingredients lacked flavor and the large buns were overpowering. It felt like a ground beef sandwich, not a cheeseburger.  

The pepperjack on the Canuck's burger was overpowering the bacon. I think the meat and bun were just so big and plain that you couldn't taste the condiments. On top of that, the meat was juicy/greasy and dripping out of our hands. The one quality I did appreciate however, is that the cheese was on the bottom of the burg, between meat and bottom bun. It served as a protective layer to keep that excessive juice from creating a soggy mess.  

Note the cheese barrier!
Now for a redemptive paragraph: The fries were amazing. Just absolutely delicious. Crisp, salty, excellent flavor. And they offer three dipping sauces. The first is their homemade ketchup with crushed tomatos and garlic. The second is regular boring ketchup. The third, and my favorite, is a ranch dip made with sour cream, mayo, onion, dill, parsley, lemon juice, dijon and salt and pepper. I could not stop dipping the fries in it. The Canuck has more willpower than I do and was able to stop when he got full, but I kept going.  I wanted to bottle the ranch and hoard it, and then put it on everything I eat year round.

Magical Ranch Dip
They serve soda in cans which added to its dive feel. The inside was a little claustrophobic to me so we sat out front in the sun and fought off some pigeons. For the two of us, the total was nearly $30 and after tasting the burgs its definitely overpriced and not worth the cost. Oh, and by the way, its CASH ONLY. If you are craving a proper french fry, or you have a naked salad that needs dressing, this is the place to be.  

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Recon: UMAMI La Brea

Los Angeles, CA

Last week a friend of mine had a show at the Comedy Union, and I jumped at the opportunity to hit up the Umami on La Brea- because each menu is a little different, and every time I have a different burg. The Canuck and I were in a rush though, and told our server we had half an hour, was it doable?  And great success, more than doable.  

The Canuck ordered the Triple Pork Burger which consists of pork, chorizo, and applewood smoked bacon all ground together in the patty, with manchego cheese, pimento aioli, lettuce and tomato. I opted for the Port & Stilton burg which has bleu cheese and port-caramelized onions, and nothing else. I was about to ask for skinny fries when the server told me they had truffle fries with a truffle cheese on top, I said stop, you had me at the word truffle. Now I'd like to point out that there is a truffle burger on the menu, but for some mysterious reason I hadn't ordered it, and with the truffle fries it would have been overload anyway.  

Food came out quick as requested, and it was heavenly. Some of you weaklings might be saying, 'port, bleu cheese and truffles? too rich!' but no, my friends, it was fantastic and the saltiness of the truffles complimented the sweet port onions. I really enjoyed the simplicity of this burger. (Above) The Canuck's burger tasted like a spoonful of hearty chili, I kid you not. [Note to self: use pimento peppers next time you make chili.] It was the oddest thing to take a bite of burg, but then be chewing straight chili. (Below) We both liked my burg a little better so we cut them in half and shared, because we're nice people like that. What I also love about Umami is that the buns are just a little sweet, which counteracts the savory elements of the burg. Bleu cheese wasn't overwhelming, the meat is high quality- soft and filled with juicy flavor, but sog factor is still an issue. The bottom bun soaks up all the burger juice, which in theory is tasty, but a little gooey. Oh, and the branded bun was a nice, new touch.

The truffle fries with truffle cheese can only be described as rich, buttery goodness.  (Served with Umami ketchup)

As far as setting goes, I liked their operation. Valet was only $2.50, and a hostess greeted us as we stepped out of the car. She sat us on the back patio which had heat lamps and lights strung above us. It was a little crowded out there, but I imagine the crowd only builds the energy on a busy night.

Every time I visit Umami, I like it a little more. Damn, I'm starving... I really need to stop writing reviews at 9am....

Monday, January 31, 2011

Recon: R & D

Santa Monica, CA

The Canuck and I popped into R&D for a quick bite to eat, and while I opted for breakfast, the Canuck went for broke with the R&D burger and a large glass of Stella.  He was nice enough to cut me a little wedge so I could get in on the action.  What I love about the R&D burger is that its all classic ingredients- nothing out of the ordinary- but the quality of ingredients is so high that it elevates the burg, giving it a clean, refreshing flavor.  I also appreciate that they shred the lettuce. The one thing both the Canuck and I didn't love was the sog factor.  The burg was cooked medium, but there wasn't any char to hold in the juice, and no topping layers between meat and bun to prevent the bun from soaking up all the juice.  

Comes with a side of fries, and by side they mean giant serving.  I was ok with their fries- a little soft for my taste, but I like that they left the peel on the potato, kept them salty and cut them skinny. Could have been crispier, and if we order them again I will ask for them to be well done.  The Canuck prefers thick cut fries, and in addition to being a Canuck he is also Dutch, and considers himself something of a fry expert, so he was a little disappointed. (But this didn't stop him from eating them...)

R&D has a great menu and bar.  The cocktail and wine lists are fantastic.  I recommend the 13th Street cocktail which has basil and crushed grapes with vodka.  They also have amazing guacamole, which I will once again attribute to the high quality ingredients.  Its usually very crowded starting around 4 on the weekends so go early, or plan on drinking at the bar while you wait for a table.  R&D is on the more expensive side for drinks and a burger so check the menu, or go for a special occasion.  Delish... 


Park City, UT

I flew into Park City for the Sundance Film Festival with a nicely sized posse and after our long journey and fantastically chauffeured suburban ride into town, we needed some hearty food.  We marched straight over to our old, get-drunk-in-the-afternoon-stand-by favorite, the No Name Saloon and binged on the local fare.  We started with mozzarella sticks, french fries and onion rings, which we scarfed down before they could be photographed (we were starving!) but trust me when I say they were delicious.

We ordered buffalo burgers, which are- yes- made out of buffalo meat.  Apparently the buffalo is not endangered like I thought.  Or maybe I just ate an endangered animal.  Let's go with not endangered for conscience reasons.  I opted for bleu cheese and bacon.  Murph, Court and Kate went for the classic Saloon burger- one with cheddar, and one with grilled onions.  No Name serves all their burgers with lettuce and tomato, and their home made potato chips.  (George Michael ordered a wrap, so not really worth mentioning...)

We needed so much diet coke the waitress finally just brought over a pitcher.  I went with a hefeweizen.  Hey, I was on vacation and I was going to have alcohol with every meal even if it killed me.  I thought the burger was great.  Meat was tender with great flavor, grilled to medium, with a nice char on the outside.  Bleu cheese wasn't overwhelming.  Could have used more bacon, or a better way of organizing the bacon to ensure bacon in every bite.  I made my usual spread of ketchup, mustard and mayo- which was also an excellent dip for the chips.  They serve salsa with their potato chips which must be a Utah thing, because salsa is for tortilla chips, dip is for potato chips.  Duh.

No Name is a great place to take a breather at Sundance; the food will fill you up and they have a massive bar.  Decor is all western, and vintage advertising, with plenty of tables, one long bar and good sized restrooms.  It gets crowded, so that is an important plus.  Definitely stop in here if you're in Park City, but don't try to be dainty about what you order, go for the jugular and you won't be disappointed.

Mini-Recon: Q's

Los Angeles, CA

We have all spent a night of some sort in this sports bar, but until recently I didn't know they had such adorable sliders on the menu.  A patron on the bar stool next to me ordered them, and I bothered him for a picture, so I can't attest to taste, since I thought asking for a bite of each mini burg might be inappropriate... But now they're on my radar and he is clearly giving them a thumbs up.